Last week, I spent four days in the Lehigh Valley attending a writer’s conference and hanging out with my old college roommate. I arrived home late Tuesday afternoon and immediately went into Passover cleaning overdrive.
As I scrubbed, vacuumed and dusted, I started thinking that holidays are a bit like a period at the end of the sentence. A writer crafts a sentence by stringing together words to create flow, clarity, and hopefully meaning. Once satisfied with the way the sentence reads the writer types in the period. This small act provides a brief moment of satisfaction over the creation of the sentence—a moment when the writer sits back and enjoys the completion.
It seems to me that the holidays are the periods in our lives. The days leading up to them are focused on planning, cleaning and cooking. But these acts alone do not give the holiday meaning. Like the writer crafting the sentence, the meaning is in the word choices.
My favorite holiday memory is of the year a huge storm blew out our electricity hours before the start of Sukkot. The stove and oven were electric; it would have been rather rude to serve raw chicken and a side of uncooked rice. I called all the guests and canceled. My children whined with disappointment and so did my husband. Finally, an hour or so before candle lighting, my husband announced, “We have a gas grill! Call everyone back.”
In the chaos of the evening, I felt pure joy watching my family pull together to create a meal for our guests. When we finally piled into the sukkah, the food was just a trapping. A sense of completeness emerged as I watched the results of the choices I made—choosing to convert to Judaism, choosing a wonderful husband (who could use a grill) and the children we created together. With complete clarity, the meaning of my life surrounded me.
That’s the purpose of the holidays, a period of time to stop, enjoy and examine the flow of life, which was created through tough decisions, hard work, and often fate. They are the period at the end of the sentence, giving us an opportunity to review what we created. In that moment of review, we face another choice, rewrite it or declare it good and begin writing the next sentence.